5 Ways to Navigate a Dinner Party When You Have Diabetes

Here’s how to stay on track with your diabetes management plan even during celebrations.

potluck spread

Updated on May 26, 2023.

Get-togethers with friends, family, or colleagues can be a blast, and sometimes it seems like they’re happening all the time. The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year, for instance, can mean one holiday party after another, while springtime and summer are full of graduations and weddings. 

At these kinds of get-togethers, the starring roles are often played by decadent foods. (Pumpkin cheesecake! Aunt Lou’s oyster stuffing!) And with indulgence often comes stress, both of which can spell trouble if you have diabetes or prediabetes

But it’s possible to have a great time during a celebratory meal and stay healthy, too. Just follow these five tips.

Stress less

Managing your stress is one of the best things you can do for your health, especially if you have diabetes. High stress can cause your blood sugar to spike. It can also keep you from thinking clearly (which can translate into forgetting to check your blood sugar) and lead to bad food choices.

Whether or not you have the power to stop stressors like family drama or problems at work—or diabetes itself, for that matter—you can learn healthier ways to face them. Meditation, for example, is a powerful tool that’s within reach any time, day or night. Breathing exercises, too, can dial back your stress response within seconds, helping you stay calm if the conversation at a party takes a controversial turn.

If you need help managing feelings of worry or discouragement about your diabetes—a situation called “diabetes distress” that happens to a great many people—let your healthcare provider (HCP) know.

Don’t skip meals

You may be tempted to hold off on lunch because of an early family dinner. But skipping meals can wreak havoc on your blood sugar. According to the American Diabetes Association, skipping meals makes it much harder to keep blood glucose levels in check throughout the day.

Worse, arriving hungry at a get-together makes it much easier to overeat. So do the opposite of skipping. If you know you will be going to a party, eat a healthy snack beforehand. It will help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you full, so you’re less likely to overindulge in all the not-so-healthy stuff later.

Navigate the buffet

Just because there’s a buffet-style dinner set up doesn’t obligate you to taste everything. Fill your plate with colorful veggies and a serving of lean protein like turkey or chicken without the skin. Then add a last small portion of something indulgent like bread or pasta with cream sauce. You could also impress the host by bringing a diabetes-friendly version of your favorite dish.

Stay off the couch

We’ve all seen the look: that sleepy-eyed gaze as everyone heads for the sofa after a big meal at Mom’s. But all that couch time can cause problems for your blood sugar and waistline. Being active is crucial for people with diabetes, with benefits that include lower blood sugar and improved insulin sensitivity. Start a new tradition: a walk-and-talk around the neighborhood after a big dinner. Better yet, kick off a backyard touch-football game.

Go easy on the alcohol

While moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to some benefits, drinking and diabetes are a complicated mix. Alcohol can mess with your blood sugar thanks to the sugar and carbs it contains and the way your liver reacts to it, not to mention how it can potentially cloud your judgment. Talk to your healthcare provider (HCP) about whether it’s better to abstain at parties or while watching the big game, or if moderate intake is safe for you.

Moderate drinking is defined as maxing out at one drink per day if you’re a woman, two if you’re a man. For a diabetes-friendly drink, try a splash of fruit juice mixed with sparkling water.

Article sources open article sources

American Diabetes Association. Alcohol & Diabetes. Accessed February 3, 2022.
American Diabetes Association. It’s a great time to get moving. Accessed February 3, 2022.
American Diabetes Association. The Diabetes Advisor. Diabetes and Stress. Accessed February 3, 2022.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes and Mental Health. Page last reviewed May 7, 2021.

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